21st April had a special place this year for me. It was Habits for Thinking’s first birthday. It was my father’s birthday by Hindu calendar. It was a friend’s birthday as well. However, it was a mentally tough day, like most days these days. Father, a doctor in his late seventies, contacted Covid19 after nearly six weeks of his second vaccine shot. Both him and mother had been suffering from Covid since fifteen days and were not showing signs of improvement. And, then unexpectedly, on 21st, he replied to a birthday message on the family chat. Thankfully after fifteen days of illness, marginal signs of improvement glimmered as a message on the group chat. He wrote ‘Khush Raho’ (stay happy) as a blessing to all.
It is hard to stay sane during this pandemic. There is a helpless feeling everywhere. Forget being happy, as the message urged, it is impossible to stay unaffected with the gloom all around. Anxiety, stress, anger, fear these are predominantly ruling our minds. In this pandemic wave, there is no one who doesn’t have a loved one or friend who has been affected.
This is the birthday week of Habits for Thinking. While several ideas were explored for a big bash weekly article, today, as the country is on its knees, here I am, sharing the only thing that matters today. “Follow your routine”. The ability to stay sane and calm lies in our own hand. Cry, you must, if you need to, but learn to get back to normal. And to remain normal, follow your daily routine. The routine of staying safe – mask, being indoors, minimising exposure. It is a big help to the health infrastructure. The routine of doing work, no matter how little it seems. The routine of physical care like exercise, nutrition, sleep. The routine of mental care by being empathetic, generous, helpful. Self care, both mental and physical is a big responsibility.
I have a little story to share to showcase the importance of following a routine. Not too long ago, in 2018, as I shut down my startup, I found myself at a loss. I had never been at home in nearly eighteen plus years of work life. To close a firm and leave the people and commitments was numbing me. In search of ideas and desperate to have a work life, I stumbled upon a line, “I read like it is my job.” This became my motto too. I pasted it at my home workstation. “Reading is my work.” Every morning I would get ready by 8.15am, my usual time for leaving for work, I would wear shoes and sit down at the workstation to work, yeah you right, actually just to read. Read a book, an article, a research paper. I don’t remember from those moments of reading and note taking, how and when I slipped into an idea of launching Right Box, a unique service for unused gifts items. One thing led to the other and these small routinely efforts compounded into ideas and work that got executed. The more important part was the ability to form a routine and maintain it. To work, to read, to follow a fitness regime as I always did and all of this helped. Following a routine meant I could add new things on my plate like learning something new or a new project. The more I lived in routine, the more it opened new avenues for me. Routine, when built on the basis of right habits, has a way to compound itself into bigger things. While being performed as small steps on a daily basis, it creates a bigger impact at the right time. Look at the habit of maintaining a fitness routine, or sleep routine or reading routine. A mundane routine is powerful.
As it gets harder everyday these days, one has to remember to do the hardest thing in the day. And the hardest thing is to maintain a routine. For me, I have seen maintaining a routine starts with showing up. Show up on the yoga mat. Show up on the workstation. Show up on the bed at your sleep time. Show up on your book to read. Show up on your ideabook to write. Show up and the practice forms a habit and thus follows a routine. With every little gain, you grow. It adds up to what my father blessed, ‘stay happy.’
Positive thoughts, optimistic words, state of happiness do not come through words. These come through actions. Small, consistent actions. These routine actions manifest to keep one optimistic and on the path to growth.
Last year, during this pandemic, course SHIFT and habitsforthinking.in was launched. I must say, the journey has been truly satisfying. And here I am, as a routine worker, sharing my weekly post with you. In this annual letter for your learning journey, I bring your attention to the basic need of our minds, the routine work. Learning is a routine work too.
Here are some nuggets from previous articles on Habits for Thinking.
To acknowledge and accept imperfection is a giant step towards getting better and learning. Not hiding from a weakness gives a vantage point of change and growth.
Being a choice architect takes efforts and failures. But, it is better to be a failure in your own choice architecture than to be a loser who has been influenced by others’ choices.
Often, during business decisions, leaders crumble not because they do not have the courage to take the decision but because they get crippled by the prospect of failure. Bold decisions have chances of getting overshadowed by fear. If the decision maker is conscious of fear, he can address it logically and not let fear overshadow bold decisions. Courage is not the absence of fear.
“Invert, always invert: Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward. What happens if all our plans go wrong? Where don’t we want to go, and how do you get there? Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead. Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.”– Charlie Munger
When a community comes together morally, it forgives and extends help. The compass for Moral Intelligence towards a community could be the one like this popular social kindness quote, “We are all just walking each other home.”
Business leaders need to become mothers as they practice moral intelligence. They must remember, a mother teaches her child by not just preaching but by practicing.
She doesn’t say only “be kind”. She says, “let us be kinder today.”